Item of the Day: Kalm’s Travels (1772)

Full Title:

Travels into North America; Containing Its Natural History, and a Circumstantial Account of its Plantations and Agriculture in General, With the Civil, Ecclesiastical and Commercial State of the Country, the Manners of the Inhabitants, and several curious and important Remarks on various subjects.  By Peter Kalm, Professor of Oeconomy in the University of Aobo in Swedish Finland, and Member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences.  Translated into English by John Reinhold Forster, F. A. S.  Enriched with a Map, several Cuts for the Illustration of Natural History, and some additional Notes.  The second edition.  In Two Volumes, Vol. I.  London: Printed for T. Lowndes, No. 77, in Fleet-street. 1772.

November 1748.  New York.

The port is a good one: ships of the greatest burthen can lie in it, quite close up to the bridge: but its water is very salt [sic], and the sea continually comes in upon it; and therefore is never frozen, except in extraordinary cold weather.  This is of great advantage to the city and its commerce; for many ships either come in or go out of the port at any time of the year, unless the winds be contrary; a convenience, which, as I have before observed, is wanting at Philadelphia.  It is secured from all violent hurricanes from the southeast by Long Island, which is situated just before the town: therefore only the storms from the south west are dangerous to the ships which ride at anchor here, because the port is open only on that side.  The entrance however has its faults; one of them is that no men of war can pass through it; for though the water is pretty deep , yet it is not sufficiently so for great ships.  Sometimes even merchant ships of a large size have, by the rolling of the waves and by sinking down between them, slightly touched the bottom, though without any bad consequences.  Besides this, the canal is narrow; and for this reason many ships have been lost here, because they may be easily cast upon a sand, if the ship is not well piloted.  Some old people, who had constantly been upon this canal, assured me, that it was neither deeper nor shallower at present, than in their youth.

The common difference between high and low water, at New York, amounts to about six feet, English measure.  But a certain time in every month, when the tide flows more than commonly, the difference in the height of the water is seven feet.

New York probably carries on a more extensive commerce, than any town in the English North American provinces; at least it may be said to equal them: Boston and Philadelphia however come very near up to it.  The trade of New Yok extends many places; and it is said they send more ships from thence to London, than they do from Philadelphia.  They export to that capital all the various sorts of skins which they buy of the Indians, sugar, logwood, and other dying woods, rum, mahogany, and many other goods which are the produce of the West Indies; together with all the specie which they get in the course of trade.  Every year they build several ships here, which are sent to London, and there sold; and of late years they have shipped a quantity of iron to England.  In return of these, they import from London stuffs, and every other article of English growth or manufacture, together with all sorts of foreign goods.  England, and especially London, profits immensely by its trade with the American colonies; for not only New York, but likewise all the other English towns on the continent, import so many articles from England, that all their specie, together with the goods which they get in other countries, must altogether go to Old England, in order to pay the amount, to which they are however insufficient.  From hence it appears how much a well-regulated colony contributes to the increase and welfare of its mother country.

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Filed under 1770's, Colonial America, Commerce, Eighteenth century, Geography, Posted by Matthew Williams, Travel, Travel Literature

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